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Bradford Rhea, Sculptor

Bradford Rhea Sculptor turns trees into living art

He was in his 20s working as a diagnostic technician at the Logan County Hospital when he realized that he needed to pursue his passion to be a sculptor.
Soon, Sterling was known as the City of Living Trees when Bradford Rheas tree sculptures started sprouting around town. I always wanted to do marble sculptures but could not afford it, Rhea said adding that he approached city officials 27 years ago when he heard that they were planning on removing dying trees around the city.
Rhea carved a total of 17 tree sculptures, some of which can be seen on a self-guided tour of the city. Some of his works are in the process of being restored.
In his art studio in merino, Rhea stood in front of his marble creation, the Exordium cut out of a 21,000-pound piece of marble as he expressed his deep appreciation for the community that supported him through the years.
I count my blessings every day of my life. I consider myself very fortunate, Rhea said citing all of the opportunities and love the community provided him.
There are nine sculptures situated in different city landmarks for easy public access and self-guided tours.
Created in 1987, the Scion carved from a 100-year-old cottonwood tree is displayed at the Ramada Inn Courtyard on U.S. Highway 6 and Interstate 76. The piece is available for viewing all year round.
Park lovers can view the Skygrazers gracing the west entrance of Columbine Park. What is known as the symbol of the City of Living Trees was originally dedicated in 1984. In 2000, it was recast to bronze where the original wood sculpture stood. The original is currently being restored.
Greeting tourists at the tourist center is the Metamorphosis. The original wood carving is now located at the French Hall of the Northeastern Junior College and is available for viewing during business hours. Available for viewing 24 hours a day, the bronze version was created in 2002.
One of the most memorable moments for Rhea was when he was commissioned by the Department of State to create a walking stick for then President Clinton to present to Pope John Paul II during his visit in 1993.
The sculptures are more about the people in Sterling than me. I had a lot of help from a lot of friends in this good community and the Lord has been good to me, Rhea said as he describes himself as more persistence than talent.
If you go:
Tours of Bradford Rheas studio can be arranged by appointment by calling 970-522-0783 or by e-mail